Inside this issue
A collaborative photobook with words
Paul Gotts is an amateur photographer based on Merseyside. He has helped pull together three collaborative photo books showcasing the work of 18 different photographers. He also makes handmade books whether for himself or others, often for charitable causes.
John is an enthusiastic amateur photographer who especially loves landscapes. He self published two books in 2020 - "Shoganai" and "Shinrin-Yoku" which both demonstrate a more project-based emphasis to his work. John also hand makes his own photo books.
By early 2022 we had both recovered from the success of our previous book, “New Beginnings”, and the £1,500 which went to the Young Minds charity. We wanted to build on our experiences, but, this time, have three rather than six photographers. We liked the idea that black and white images might produce a more coherent final book and attract a different range of photographers. Our most radical idea was that we wanted some words included in the book that was more than those normally provided by photographers themselves – we wanted a “proper” writer to be involved who would weave a story throughout the book and, in doing this reach a wider audience. This was all a bit of a step into the unknown. We did know; however, that blending together images from three photographers, all working separately, and then adding the words from an author responding to those photographs was going to be a challenge. Also, like before, we wanted to use this to raise money for a charity.
In looking for a theme, a charitable cause and a figurehead who would champion the project, we soon came to the conclusion that we should approach master printer Jack Lowe for help. Jack describes himself as a documentarist using photography, audio, film and words to shine a light on the greatness of others. Since 2015 Jack has been working on a major photographic mission — The Lifeboat Station Project. After asking to look at our earlier books, we were delighted when Jack accepted our invitation to come on board and has been with us ever since.
Finding an author was totally outside of our comfort zone, but luckily, we struck gold when we approached Merseyside author Jeff Young, whose book “Ghost Town - A Liverpool Shadowplay” (Little Toller, 2020) had so impressed Paul. Again, we sent a sample of our work, and almost overnight, he signed up.
We advertised the launch of the project on our website and through social media, after which a large number of excellent photographers expressed an interest in taking part. Through their websites, social media and other sources, we looked at their work, had a telephone call and agreed on the three who we thought gave us the best chance of achieving the sort of book we were after. Lynn, Ali and Fiona all seemed genuinely pleased when we got back in touch with them, and we have all worked together since then.
The photographers were given two months (September and October) to each submit around 20 black and white images that, in their view, best followed the brief. We gave them no guidance other than the odd vote of confidence in their ability to produce quality work. The images came in on time, and then we were faced with the challenge of coming up with a shortlist of 35 or so, which were sequenced in a decent manner and ideally had no one photographer over-represented.
Jeff’s key role started when we sent him a hard copy of our first draft sequence of images just after Christmas 2022. We were absolutely blown away when we received Jeff’s words. His enthusiasm has been an inspiration for us, and we could not have been happier with how his words were such a significant addition to the book.
Once the euphoria of being selected to take part in the project had subsided, reality set in - I was at a loss as to how to proceed, given the remit was so wide. After some considerable thought about the type of subject matter I like to photograph, I decided to incorporate man-made objects in my images, and this opened up a variety of locations and subject matter within easy travelling distance from home. The images were not pre-planned as I mostly visited locations that I had not previously been to. Setting my camera’s picture style to monochrome helped me to see and compose the images once on location, and I came back from each excursion with a set of images that I felt fulfilled the brief. Selecting which images to submit from the body of work I had accumulated became the hardest part of the project.
The “Mermaid of the North”, as she is called, sits just a few metres from the shore on a large rock. For a sculpture, she has an intense gaze, and I wanted to capture this along with the sense of serenity I felt as I sat on the beach watching the small waves roll around her.
Stories of drowning sailors are whispered here and you can hear the feral grief of the witness. ~Jeff Young
I find lighthouses fascinating structures, both from an aesthetic and an engineering perspective. Always situated in obviously difficult, or even seemingly impossible, locations, lighthouses rise up as a steadfast testament to the determination and skill of those who built them, the lonely and harsh environment for those who manned them, and the signal of potential danger for those navigating our coastal waters. All these thoughts went through my mind as I made this image.
Living in Shropshire, I am slightly landlocked! However, a week after I discovered I had been selected for the project, I was due to take a family vacation in Devon. I've always loved this area, and a friend of mine recommended a lesser well-known beach near where we were staying. The beach proved to be a wonderful location full of fossils, shapes, textures, rocks, seaweed and many more things to explore. During this time, it was also one of the hottest weeks of the year which provided excellent light and shadows.
Although I found my time in Devon successful, I wanted to make the very most of the time I had to complete the project. I choose to spend two days in Harlech in Wales, and these days were blessed with stunning skies, fascinating beaches, peace and calm. I'm grateful for the wonderful experiences and moments this project has given me.
I spent many, many hours with my photos and feel a very tight bond with them. I narrowed them down from several hundred to twenty. I'd like to think the photos chosen for the book represent my love of the smaller, simple parts of nature, which I am naturally drawn to.
Despite the magnificent view of Harlech Beach in front of me, I ran excitedly down to the shore to explore it in more detail. I was drawn to a section of dunes with pink flowers, and as I lay down on the sand, my eye was drawn to a patch of long grass. I realised the grass was being gently blown by the wind and making patterns in the sand. It felt like I was in a little bubble, and the rest of the world disappeared around me.
The lines in the stones resemble the lines in my body, lines like scars and wounds. ~Jeff Young
The beach in Devon was covered in rocks of all different sizes, many were smooth and slightly freckled, giving me the impression of skin or bodies with their smooth edges. After exploring for a little while, I found a rock with large white lines streaking down it. This automatically gave me the impression of veins and a lifeline within nature, representing how it is all connected.
Mid-August. I have been selected for the Littoral project. Delight is quickly followed by mild panic. The brief - twenty new black and white images taken at the coast and ready by the end of October. I live in rural Gloucestershire, miles from the sea. I’m away from mid October. Can I meet the deadline? Will my images be OK? Frantically rearranging the diary to accommodate trips to the coast. An understanding and supportive husband, John. A friend, Carole, arranges a trip to Whitby. Cornish location suggestions from Richard. Trips to North Devon, Cornwall, North Yorkshire and Fife. Images edited, images selected, then discarded; repeat! Last minute day trip to Porthcawl. A final choice was made. Sense of relief.
Dead Flowers. I won't forget to put roses on your grave. At the end of the pier, a young woman sitting motionless on a bench, crying silently. Her anguish too private to photograph. A faded wreath tied to the railings.
And the rain fell down. Early morning walk along the South West coastal path abandoned. Torrential rain and strong gusty winds. Now safely on the beach. Watching with awe. Thinking about the Japanese aesthetic of yūgen: a profound, mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe … and the sad beauty of human suffering.
The hardback photobook is available to preorder from http://littoralphotobook.co.uk and will be available from June.
- Standard hardback book £20
- Standard hardback book – signed £25
- Standard hardback book – signed + 1 print £40
- Standard hardback book – signed + 3 prints £55
- Standard hardback book – signed + 6 prints £75
- Limited edition (4) handmade book with slipcase – signed £180